The four-day virtual.drupa 2021 took place from 20 to 23 April 2021. According to Adrian Mayr, head of product management and corporate marketing at print finishing service provider Muller Martini, the event was a good experiment. Still, in the long run, drupa needs to reinvent itself given the rapid change the industry is witnessing.
“I think it’s good that the virtual.drupa 2021 experiment has been dared [attempted] – both from the point of view of drupa and from the point of view of a machine manufacturer,” Mayr says in a recent blog post. “Because it is important that our industry marks its presence and is not forgotten. That’s why it was clear to us from the very beginning that we wanted to be represented at this virtual trade show.”
Print finishing’s importance is always underestimated
He said that drupa has always been important for Muller Martini and the company wanted to highlight the importance of print finishing, which is still often underestimated. However, since the physical drupa was canceled due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Mayr says that there have been voices arguing that large trade shows such a drupa are no longer keeping with the times – especially in an industry like print that is no longer booming.
“They [large trade shows] are too expensive for the suppliers and for the visitors, some of whom travel from far away. However, I don’t believe that drupa has outlived its usefulness. But it has to reinvent itself – and that’s where the exhibitors undoubtedly also play an important role,” he says.
The colossal expense is no longer manageable for many machine manufacturers. That’s why, in the future, what’s needed is no longer large stand areas with impressive machinery but top innovations, the demonstration of solutions for attractive end-products, and new business models. In addition, exhibitors must address print shops and bookbinders, and other segments such as publishers or agencies. “In short, we want to achieve a comparable effect with less resources,” Mayr says.
The social components as a drupa success factor
Mayr says that he is looking forward to the physical drupa in 2024. In addition, he states that the Muller Martini stand will continue to offer added value in the future. But he cannot say what the company’s drupa format will look like in 2024 – and whether it will also have virtual elements on the stand, such as live links to its training centers.
“One thing I do know for sure, however, is that I’m already looking forward to direct contact with you,” he says. “After all, the social component, the formal and informal conversations on the stand and over dinner, are a key success factor of drupa as a marketplace for our industry in general – and for strengthening our corporate brand.”
Virtual.drupa 2021 allowed Muller Martini to present its machine portfolio
Mayr says that since the onset of the pandemic, there have been countless online events. Nevertheless, virtual.drupa had a special significance for him, he said. And for three reasons.
First, the drupa brand acts as a magnet and radiates internationality, whereas many webinar offerings tend to have a regional character – if only for linguistic reasons. Secondly, virtual.drupa 2021 covered the entire spectrum of the graphic arts industry, whereas online webinars are usually limited to a specific range of topics. And thirdly, virtual.drupa 2021 allowed Muller Martini to present a large part of its machine portfolio directly on the virtual.drupa 2021 website and, as a supplement, in its online showroom.
The shortcomings of the virtual.drupa
Although Mayr did not have the figures of the detailed traffic figures or the visitor leads, the start was promising for Muller Martini. On an opening day, the number of clicks on its website was higher than it had been for a month. And Mayr received a few concrete inquiries on the first two days of the trade show. “However, the company’s web session – ‘Muller Martini: Your strong partner – driving the digital transformation in print finishing’ by Volker Leonhardt, group management and head of global sales, and Georg Riva, head of sales, would have deserved a bit more participants, if I’m honest,” he said. So there we have it – a loyal exhibitor admitting that the virtual.drupa drew a lukewarm response for whatever reason – web or webinar fatigue or other shortcomings.
Talking about leads, Mayr says that it will contact the customers as soon as the company has received them from the drupa organization. “I’m particularly curious to see how many people we haven’t met yet are among them. Frankly, however, my expectations in this regard – unlike at a real drupa – are not too high,” he says. “Because at virtual.drupa 2021, unfortunately, some well-known manufacturers of digital presses were not present. I think that’s a shame because Muller Martini is the market leader in this segment with its Finishing 4.0 solutions.”